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Category: George Sherrill

Dodgers could really go with only one left-hander in their bullpen

Not the way you’re supposed to do it, of course. Goes against the unofficial manager’s handbook.

Teams like to have at least two lefties in their bullpen. One to possibly go through the order, one who may be mostly situational.

Alas, the Dodgers have a pretty full bullpen with only one left-hander -- Hong-Chih Kuo.

Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti has said he’d like to add a second lefty, but pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a month. And the possibility grows that Kuo might be the lonely left-hander.

"Could be," said Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly.

Mattingly made it clear, however, that he has zero interest in adding a second left-hander just for the sake of it.

"We’ll find the best arms, left or right," he said. "You hear about the lefties, and it’s nice to have that second lefty out there. It would be nice to have three [as] your best arms. But I’m looking for the best arms."

Mattingly said he’s witnessed teams having bullpen success without the traditional second lefty.

"We played against the Angels for years and [Angels Manager Mike] Scioscia hardly ever had a lefty," Mattingly said. "He kept righties who had good stuff. I want the guys with the best stuff, and the best chance of getting outs. Sometimes it’s lefties, sometimes it’s right."

Last season the Dodgers had Kuo and George Sherrill, or at least a facsimile of George Sherrill (2-2, 6.69 earned-run average).

The lone lefty could prove a greater concern this season should Jonathan Broxton not rebound and be able to close. If the Dodgers have to return to Kuo as their closer, that could potentially leave no middle-innings lefty available.

And, of course, there is always the fear that Kuo’s bionic elbow could break down for a fifth time.

Currently in the bullpen are Broxton, Kuo, Kenley Jensen, Ronald Belisario, Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth. That’s a full seven.

The main in-house candidate to break in as a second lefty is Scott Elbert, whom Mattingly coached in the Arizona Fall League. Mattingly says Elbert has a shot at making the team.

"I think he does," Mattingly said. "He’s been up and down, on that yo-yo, back and forth, and never quite put it together. To me, his stuff plays. There’s no doubt about it. He has a power arm. He gets righties and lefties out. Seems durable and he’s not afraid. I like him."

Elbert missed much of last season, however, leaving his triple-A Albuquerque team for undisclosed personal reasons shortly after a quick stint with the Dodgers.

There’s something of a left-leaning aspect to the Dodgers this season. They have a left-handed-hitting-heavy lineup, no left fielder and no second left-hander in the bullpen.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Fox News reports: Dodgers bullpen is leaning heavily to the right

If left field seems barren as the Mojave Desert, the Dodgers bullpen is a veritable metropolis.

It can be a tad confusing. During the second half, the Dodgers’ No. 1 problem was their inability to mount a consistent offense. To this frustrated group, they have added second baseman Juan Uribe. That’s all, folks.

Meanwhile, the bullpen is more crowded than George Clooney’s little black book. Arms here, arms there, arms everywhere. At least of the right-handed variety.

Certainly, last season the bullpen was a staggering disappointment. Relievers who had performed well the previous year -- Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso, Ronald Belisario, Jeff Weaver, Ramon Troncoso -- almost went into a group funk.

Hong-Chih Kuo performed better than anyone had a right to expect, and Kenley Jansen shocked everyone with his stunning emergence. End of good news.

Now with the exception of Sherrill, and probably Weaver, they have all those arms back, plus they have Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth.

Say what you will about general manager Ned Colletti, but he seems to learn from his mistakes.

Not having a fifth starter killed the Dodgers in the first half, and now he has his entire rotation filled out, plus Padilla available as a swing man. If he showed too much faith in his returning bullpen a year ago, now he’s in the surplus arms business.

And still can’t be done, can he?

Because there is still a real need for a second left-hander. Kuo is the lefty island, and he’s standing there with tenuous trust placed in that rebuilt elbow.

So Colletti adds Guerrier, who is a fine relief pitcher, but he’s 32 and got three years and $12 million. Multi-year deals for relievers are always a risky business, and this is money you thought might go toward finding a left fielder.

Another right-handed reliever did not scream pressing need. The Dodgers might carry eight relievers to start the season, but typically will go with seven.

You count: Broxton, Kuo, Guerrier, Jansen, Padilla, Belisario, Hawksworth, Troncoso and unnamed left-hander.

At the least, I’d say Troncoso was in some real trouble. Maybe somebody is dealt to bring in a lefty, or maybe they just cross their fingers really hard and give Scott Elbert a shot.

It’s only December, but for now there remains a black hole in left and a bevy of right-handed relievers. It’s only December, but it’s confusing.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers elect to non-tender Russell Martin; reach deal with Rod Barajas [Updated]

If there was no right answer, at least there is finally an answer.

The Dodgers elected to non-tender catcher Russell Martin on Thursday, leaving him a free agent.

The Dodgers were apparently attempting to trade Martin right up against the 9 p.m. deadline before electing not to offer him a contract.

[Updated:] After officially passing on Martin, the Dodgers promptly reached an agreement with catcher Rod Barajas, The Times' Dylan Hernandez reported. It is for one year, pending a physical.

Barajas, 35, was a late-season pickup for the Dodgers last season, hitting .297 with five home runs and 13 RBI in 64 at-bats. Including his time with the Mets, he had 17 home runs and 45 RBI on the season.

If they had signed Martin, he would have been eligible for arbitration and probably would have earned at least $6 million. He made $5.05 million last season. He has been their regular catcher for the last five seasons.

Hernandez reports that Martin's last offer to the Dodgers was for $5 million, with another $1 million in incentives.

Martin, 27, is now free to negotiate with any team willing to take a chance on his returning from a severe hip injury.

Martin suffered the injury Aug. 2, after awkwardly crossing home plate to avoid a tag and fracturing his hip. He did not return the rest of the season, but did not have surgery.

He has yet to start running, let alone getting in a crouch, so it is almost impossible for the Dodgers to be certain if he would be able to catch next season, or how much.

Even before the injury, his decreasing production had become a concern. He hit a career-low .248 last season, with five home runs and 26 RBI in 331 at-bats.

Martin could still re-sign with the Dodgers, and now there will be no restrictions on how much they could reduce his salary. Hernandez said the Dodgers remain interested in Martin, but as a part-time catcher.

The free-agent pool of catchers is dwindling. John Buck previously signed with Florida, and on Thursday A.J. Pierzynski re-signed with the White Sox and Jason Varitek with the Red Sox.

Miguel Olivo and Barajas were two of the few catchers still available. The only current Dodger with major league catching experience is A.J. Ellis.

As expected, the Dodgers also elected to non-tender reliever George Sherrill and outfielder Trent Oeltjen.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Daily Dodger in review: the inexplicable season of left-hander George Sherrill

GEORGE SHERRILL, 33, reliever

Final 2010 stats: 2-2, 6.69 ERA, no saves, 25 strikeouts, 24 walks, 1.93 WHIP in 36 1/3 innings.

Contract status: Arbitration eligible.

The good: Left-handed hitters batted just .192 against him, with only five extra-base hits in 73 at-bats. Appeared in a team-high 65 games. When he had at least one day's rest before appearances, fashioned a 2.84 ERA. Clubhouse crossword puzzle champ. Walked in his first career at-bat.

The bad: Just about everything else. He was a mess from the first moment of spring training, when he tried to tell us he typically had poor springs. Right-handed batters hit .427 against him, and unfortunately he pitched against slightly more right-handers.

Allowed a stunning 11.4 hits per nine innings. And he couldn’t strike anyone out. Struck out only 6.2 hitters per nine innings. In a stretch from late May to early July, went through a 21-game stretch when he struck out only two batters.

He allowed only one home run at Dodger Stadium all season, but it was memorable. Almost forgotten in Jonathan Broxton’s memorable ninth-inning meltdown against the Yankees June 27, was Sherrill giving up the game-winning home run in the 10th to the left-handed hitting Robinson Cano.

What’s next: Since he made $4.5 million last season and it was a mega-disaster, there’s no way the Dodgers offer him arbitration by the Dec. 2 deadline. He’ll become a free agent and somebody will certainly sign him, but at a serious pay cut; maybe even to a minor-league deal.

The take: When the Dodgers picked Sherrill up from the Orioles, he arrived with 20 saves and quickly became their left-handed specialist. He excelled beyond expectations, fashioning a 0.65 ERA in 2009.

No one realistically figured he’d keep that up in 2010, but no one saw such a precipitous drop-off either. His turnaround was so stunning as to be unexplainable, not that there wasn’t a litany of excuses -- he had a mechanical problem, he was burned out from being heavily used the previous season, he was injured, he was misused out of the bullpen. I, of course, was partial to the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" theory.

He wasn’t throwing as hard. His pitches often looked flat. His confidence, understandably, was shaken. There is something, however, to the theory that Joe Torre too frequently put him in the wrong kind of situations. He faced 95 right-handed hitters on the season, to 85 left-handed hitters.

And since he was still very effective against left-handers, it’s a disturbing stat. It's also why someone is certainly going to give him an opportunity next season.

The chances that that team is the Dodgers is minuscule, but still there. Assuming Don Mattingly is willing to use him as a middle-inning, left-handed specialist. Left-handed relievers have a life span just shy of the giant tortoise, so he’ll reemerge somewhere, pod and all.

-- Steve Dilbeck

The frustrating season of Ronald Belisario

Jonathan Broxton’s second-half meltdown has been so staggering, it’s managed to overshadow an equally puzzling decline.

What in the name of Joe Charboneau happened to Ronald Belisario this season?

So completely nasty last season, so cover-the-eyes unpredictable this year.

Last season he was a bullpen godsend, a career minor leaguer who showed up late to camp and at age 26 made the club. And then became a dominant set-up man, posting a 2.04 ERA in 69 appearances.

This year he owns a 5.06 ERA. And that’s actually down from his 5.64 ERA on Sept. 1.

He joins Ramon Troncoso, George Sherrill, Jeff Weaver and Broxton in forming a bullpen reversal that killed the Dodgers all season.

Belisario has gone from rookie sensation to sophomore letdown. And seemingly he is the cause of his own undoing.

His season began poorly when he missed training camp because he had trouble obtaining a visa over a DUI arrest last summer. He missed the first two weeks of the season and then struggled. He had a 7.20 ERA in his first 16 appearances.

But then seemingly in shape, he seemed to turn it around. Over his next 19 appearances, he had a 1.31 ERA. Belisario appeared back.

Until he vanished in the night.

Without explanation from either him or the club. His agent said it was for personal reasons, and that was all that was ever offered. The Times, however, reported he left the team to receive treatment in a substance abuse program.

He returned on Aug. 10 after being gone for over a month. In his next 13 appearances, he had a 13.00 ERA.

Belisario seemed back on track in September, but Tuesday he relieved Hiroki Kuroda and gave up a wild pitch and a two-run homer to Dexter Fowler that tied the game. When the Dodgers rallied the next inning, he was actually credited with an unsightly victory.

In a year of frustrating performances, it can be easy to overlook Belisario’s up-and-down season. Yet it remains highly disappointing and has left the Dodgers unable to count on him next season. They can hope he returns to form, but they can’t count on it.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Do them both a favor and shut down Jonathan Broxton and George Sherrill

Can we now call it a season for Jonathan Broxton and George Sherrill? Pretty, pretty please?

Exactly what is supposed to be gained in the final week by continuing to send them out there?

They have all the confidence of a teenager on a first date. They almost look scared on the mound.

That they combined to blow up an outstanding starting effort by Chad Billingsley on Sunday came as a surprise to … whom exactly?

It ranked up there with politician caught in lie, Lindsay Lohan enters rehab, Vicente Padillia oils his hair.

For Sherrill, it’s been an ongoing, mystifying theme. His season numbers: 2-2, 7:08 ERA and zero saves in four opportunities.

This -- it must be reminded -- from the guy who went 1-0 with a miniscule 0.65 ERA for the Dodgers last year after being acquired prior to the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

If you can understand that turnaround, explaining the origin of the pyramids should be a snap.

Broxton has been so bad of late, it’s almost hard to remember he actually was outstanding in the first half -- notwithstanding that fiasco against the Yankees.

In the first half, Broxton was 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA and had 19 saves in 21 opportunities. In the second half, he is 2-6 with a 6.85 ERA and three saves in eight opportunities.

He just isn’t the same guy. Whether he’s secretly hurt or just a jumbled mental case right now, it doesn’t matter. He can’t get anybody out. He pitches like he doesn’t believe he can.

Broxton averaged 7.86 strikeouts per walk in the first half and 0.85 in the second half.

It ain’t happening for him, or Sherrill. And suddenly having one decent outing in the final week isn’t going to send them into the offseason full of renewed confidence.

Shut it down, and let them relax and reboot next spring.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Chad Billingsley shines, bullpen collapses in Dodgers' 5-4 loss to Diamondbacks

Billingsley_300 The answers to some questions sort of hover agonizingly, looking like the correct response could go a couple of ways, defying precise response.

So it is asked: What have we learned this season about right-hander Chad Billingsley?

He is the Dodgers' international man of mystery. By way of Defiance, Ohio.

Billingsley came into the year following the worst season of his four-year career (12-11, 4.03 earned-run average) and another disappointing appearance in the National League Championship Series (0-2, 12.96 ERA in two seasons).

In 2008 he was a budding ace (16-10, 3.14 ERA), at least until the NLCS. Since then, brilliant at times, struggling at others.

He started this season slowly and, given his mild-mannered demeanor, again came those questioning his mental toughness.

The definitive answer may still be elusive, but Billingsley has returned to previous form in the second half this season, which the Diamondbacks could testify after their 5-4, comeback victory over the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon.

Billingsley went seven outstanding innings, striking out 13 Diamondbacks and allowing one run on only four hits. He walked one.

At the All-Star break, Billingsley was 7-4 with a 4.14 ERA. In the second half lack of run support has left his record at 4-7, but with a 3.04 ERA.

The Dodgers were leading 4-1 when Billingsley sat down after throwing 121 pitches (81 for strikes), in position to earn the victory before once again being betrayed by the bullpen.

George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton each gave up two-run homers in the eighth, ex-Dodger Tony Abreu’s first of the year pulling Arizona within one and then Chris Young drilling Broxton’s first pitch for the game-winner. Young was 0-for-13 against Broxton until that swing.

It wasted a brilliant performance by Billingsley. The outcome of the game, of course, is actually meaningless between these two lower division teams.

More important to the Dodgers on Sunday, was the performance of Billingsley, his increased effectiveness and building confidence.

Out of their five-man rotation, only Clayton Kershaw and Billingsley are assured of returning next season. With Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla all potential free agents, the Dodgers need to enter the off-season feeling confident about the two starters they do have returning.

And right now, Billingsley looks like a starter who can be counted upon. That might sound less than definitive, but given last season, is an answer to be welcomed.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers starting pitcher Chad Billingsley works against Arizona on Sunday in Phoenix. Credit: Jennifer Stewart / US Presswire

Dodgers get just a tad too wild in 2-1 loss to Giants

The Dodgers were not wild about Wednesday night’s game, just wild.

A little too wild at inopportune times in falling 2-1 to the Giants.

The Dodgers and Giants were locked in another scoreless pitching duel -- this time between Chad Billingsley and San Francisco’s Matt Cain --  when the Giants finally scored once in the seventh and then again in the eighth, both times aided by a wild pitch.

With the Padres losing Wednesday, the Giants pulled within a half-game of San Diego in in the National League West.

The Dodgers' offense continued to shrink from sight. One night after managing only one hit, they came back Wednesday with four hits. Their last hit came on Andre Ethier's solo home run in the ninth.

Billingsley nearly matched Clayton Kershaw’s brilliant shutout performance from Tuesday, blanking the Giants through six innings. To that point, the Giants had failed to score a run against the Dodgers in 15 consecutive innings.

The Giants threatened in the first, fifth and sixth innings, but each time Billingsley was able to turn them away.

Finally in the seventh, they pushed a run across after pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa lined a one-out double into the right-center gap.

Pinch-runner Emmanuel Burriss went to third on a Billingsley wild pitch. After Eugenio Velez bounced back to Billingsley, Mike Fontenot’s broken-bat single to center scored Burriss.

Billingsley (11-10) went seven strong innings, giving up one run, six hits and a pair of walks. He struck out seven.

The Giants added a second run in the eighth after Aubrey Huff led off with a double against George Sherrill. Buster Posey was walked intentionally, before the call went to rookie reliever Kenley Jensen.

Jensen got Juan Uribe to fly out, but then threw a wild pitch that advanced both runners. Huff was then able to beat the throw home when Pablo Sandoval bounced to second for what proved the winning run.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, never really threatened to score until Ethier’s solo home run against Brian Wilson in the ninth. It was his 22nd homer of the season.

Cain (12-10) went seven innings for the Giants, blanking the Dodgers on three hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out five.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Jay Gibbons makes his case: Two-run homer in 11th snaps Dodgers' six-game losing streak, 4-2

Dodgers1_300 Jay Gibbons seemed banished and forgotten. Accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. Dropped by the Orioles. Bounced around various minor leagues.

He was given one more chance, probably a last chance, by the Dodgers this spring, who signed him to a triple-A contract. He tore it up at Albuquerque and waited.

Finally, on Aug. 8, he got the call. He was back in the major leagues. And now Gibbons is trying to make his case to stay, to be a part of whatever team the Dodgers put together for next season

He made his case a tad louder Friday night, drilling a two-run homer in the 11th inning to lead the Dodgers to a 4-2 victory over the Astros.

The victory snapped the Dodgers’ six-game losing streak.

In just 35 at-bats, Gibbons (.343, four homers, 12 RBI, six runs) has been more productive as the man he replaced as the team’s left-handed pinch-hitter, Garret Anderson (.181, two, 12 and eight) in 155 at-bats.

Matt Kemp led off the 11th with a single off Houston reliever Fernando Abad, and Gibbons followed with his two-run homer. He had three RBIs on the night.

Much earlier in the game, Hiroki Kuroda and Houston’s J.A. Happ were locked in a scoreless affair through four innings.

Then in the fifth, that rarest of events, the Dodgers scored a run.

Rod Barajas opened with a single to left and was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Kuroda. Jamey Carroll, signed to be a utility player but who has now played in 125 games, continued his unexpectedly productive season by lining a single into left-center field to score Barajas.

It proved a short-lived lead. In the bottom of the fifth, singles by Angel Sanchez and Brett Wallace put runners on the corners, and Michael Bourn’s bloop hit to center tied the score.

The Dodgers, however, came right back with a run in the sixth. With Wilton Lopez taking over for Happ, Kemp drove a hit into the right-center gap that Hunter Pence misplayed into a triple.

Gibbons, entering the game earlier as a pinch-hitter, singled up the middle to score Kemp.

Houston tied it again in the seventh. Wallace hit a ground-rule double off struggling reliever Ronald Belisario and Bourn singled off left-hander George Sherrill to drive him in the tying run.

Kuroda went six innings for the Dodgers, giving up one run on four hits. He walked two and struck out four.

Octavio Dotel (3-3) pitched the final two innings of relief to earn the victory.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers left fielder Jay Gibbons, left, is congratulated by center fielder Matt Kemp after hitting a two-run home run in the 11th inning Friday night. Credit: George Bridges / McClatchy-Tribune

This is too big a disaster for even Joe Torre to take one for the team

So Joe Torre fell on his sword. That’s what good soldiers do, of course, and Torre is nothing if not the good soldier.

Torre took responsibility for the Dodgers’ disappointing season prior to Wednesday’s game in San Diego, lamenting his inability to make a difference, to raise the team and individual level of play.

Now there is plenty of blame to go around, and certainly Torre will get his share. When a team goes south, that’s the typical fallout.

Yet however he is criticized for the use of his bullpen or early insistence on Charlie Haeger as a fifth starter or his reluctance to admit that Jonathan Broxton had lost his way, or his prolonged loyalty to Garret Anderson or the failure to nurture development from his young core of hitters, mostly he played the hand he was dealt.

Blame will have a universal feel when this team’s final obit is written, starting with ownership, filtering through management and down to the players themselves. Such as they were.

Torre has to take only his own bullets. He showed yet again during the fiasco that was Manny Ramirez in his final days, that he will promote the company line and protect players and management if necessary, regardless of how it makes him look.

His lineups often speak for themselves, frequently littered with role players and other teams’ rejects.

Is he actually supposed to win a pennant with a lineup of Scott Podsednik, Rod Barajas, Ryan Theriot and Jamey Carroll? Really? With Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp off in some hazy second-half funk? Rafael Furcal unable to stay healthy? Corner hitters James Loney and Casey Blake fading?

And a bullpen that was a team strength last season getting the wrong kind of turnaround performance from Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, George Sherrill and Broxton?

It’s not like Torre is some victim here. And as he well knows, a manager ultimately will always be held accountable for his team’s performance, good or bad.

But to take full responsibility for the failure of so many is wrong and unnecessary.  When it comes to accepting liability for their 2010 season, the Dodgers will need to pass around a lot of mirrors.

-- Steve Dilbeck


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